Going That Way
Karma is karma, and instant karma adds an exclamation point to the whole notion. It’s the same concept as what comes around, goes around. Be careful of stepping on that ant, if you work on the corporate level, or you may find yourself being stepped on just as ruthlessly, or thoughtlessly, since the result is the same. On the other hand, have the opportunity to step on that ant, and sidestep it, and watch that ant come back to lend you a hand some day.
I was on my way to work on the day I was finally going to take out Melody, my current heartthrob, and the girl that I had been scheming on for more than six months, while she extricated herself, from a complicated and emotional relationship, from her long-time high school beau. We were both employed by the county’s Rapid Transit District, she as a bus driver, I as one of the grunts who kept those buses spewing black diesel smoke, back into the faces of the vehicles, stuck following behind.
In the beginning she was just a cute, vivacious gal, who reported each morning to get her chariot, with an unusual reserve of morning cheer. She didn’t mind the perfunctory checklist, that she was required to fill out each morning, before she could cruise off. Some of the drivers made it seem as though I were the one who dictated policy. Melody just took care of business, recognizing that it was just one step, in a long daily path, that allowed her to arrive at the other end, still smiling.
It was that smile that did it for me. Anyone who could flash that kind of high-beam power, that early in the morning, was bound to get better as the day went on. I decided I wanted in on that smile, and I saw my opportunity when I inadvertently witnessed an encounter between Melody and her man. He had given her a ride to the bus yard, and they were engaged in a discussion that produced quite a reaction from him, not so much from her.
I had pulled into the parking lot a moment before them, and was trying to retrieve the contents of my sack lunch, which had ended up all over the passenger seat floor, having plopped down off the seat, as I careened through the empty streets of early morning town. As I straightened back up, I realized that there was a fairly animated, one-sided conversation going on, that I would have preferred to have avoided, a couple of car spaces away. The gist of the conversation, was that it was over between the two individuals, and that it was time to move on. There was nothing more to be said. I had my lunch together, so I simply shut and locked the door, and strode purposefully away from the parking lot, and toward my work station.
That conversation had been the impetus for me to begin to cultivate a friendship with this delightful specimen of a woman. It seemed easy to do, as she was outgoing, and now that I knew that she was no longer seeing her boyfriend, it gave me the opportunity to proceed, without feeling like I was tampering with an existing relationship. I gave her a jump start one afternoon, after work; I brought her fresh Heirloom tomatoes out of my backyard garden; I adjusted the valves in her VW bug and changed the oil, just because I could. It all led to great success, when I invited her to an early dinner for after work one day the following week, and she said yes.
Now the grand day was here, but we still had to work our shifts, before the time arrived. We had agreed to a no-frills, don’t-worry-about-what-you-look-like date, so it was hopefully going to be be light and breezy. I was driving along, thinking about the chain of events that had occurred to lead to this day, when I became aware of a pickup to the side of the road, and a lone figure dangerously close to the highway, holding out his thumb pleadingly. I still would have passed him by, except that he dropped to his knees, and put his hands together, as if praying, and gave me a look a I could not pass by.
I stopped picking up hitchhikers, two decades ago, but maybe it was my lightness of heart, maybe the look he gave me, I honestly don’t know. I surveyed my passenger, as he bundled in from the chill morning air, and noted his unconventional appearance, and bushy mustache. He was wearing Levis and a sweat shirt, and his boots were work boots which had seen plenty of wear. He had an Iron Cross suspended from his left earlobe, and his hands looked calloused and hardened. His hair was trying desperately to make a statement, and did so when he pulled the backwards Giants baseball cap, off of his head. His wiry hair sprung out all over, a full contingent of Brillowy confusion, but his smile was wide and genuine.
“This is huge, Man. If you can just get me to the next town, so that I can arrange to get my truck, I won’t forget it. I need to get to San Fran, by tomorrow at noon. Getting off the highway as quickly as I did, gives me a shot at getting on my way, late this afternoon.”
“What do you think is going on with your truck?” I was good at making with the palaver.
“I’m pretty sure it’s the fuel pump. Happened once before. Works OK, until you hit a grade, like that there Oil Well Hill. Kicked its ass. What are you gonna do? But it it ain’t a hard thing to repair, once I get her towed here. Anybody can work on a small-block Chevy.”
“Tell me about it. Nowadays, you have to have a degree to work on these cars, with their computers, and all of that electronic gadgetry. I used to be good at working on VW’s back in the 70’s.” I laughed. “You had to be, if you were going to drive an air-cooled engine, up on a dirt road.”
“You lived on a dirt road?” The dude looked at me with new interest.
“Present tense. I live on Bell Springs, up the highway thirty miles. I travel this corridor regularly...” And so we had made small talk. I got the impression he was in sales, with money worries not a big issue, What I had glimpsed of his truck, looked like it was in cherry condition, and more of a collector’s edition, than a work truck.
I had continued to make perfunctory conversation with him, finding out that he was going to San Francisco, to pick up his wife, who was flying in from LA. He had been planning on getting down there tonight, and spending the night with a buddy, so he had the time to spare to get the repairs done, and still get down to San Fran in time. He had offered to pay me twenty bucks for gas, when I first picked him up, but I waved it away, saying that I was going that way anyway.
The day went by surprisingly fast, and I was itching to get out of the bus yard, which is how I left my jacket behind, the first time I ever remember doing so. The day had been unseasonably warm one, and I had removed it after lunch, hanging it in my locker, and heading back to my job station.
I never even made the connection, until I was sitting in the restaurant, having an easy time of it, with the conversation flowing smoothly. Melody looked sweet in her bus driver’s uniform, and she never even referred to it once, like some girls would have, making a big deal about how they wished they could be wearing something a little more styling. No, not until the subject of the Giants came up, and she asked me if there was a game that tonight. I was going to reach for my wallet, where I keep a schedule of Giants games, at all times, when it hit me like an opposing grand slam. I have no wallet, and therefore, no way to pay for my meal. Or Melody’s.
What does one do? Of course, this is the 21st century. Certainly, a discreet conference with the manager, should settle the matter until the next day, when I could bring the money back to the restaurant. But still, I had to have that conference, and I had to do it, if possible, without Melody finding out. She was such a trooper, that I was sure it would not make that much difference to her, but I’d wanted everything to be perfect, at least as perfect as possible.
I decided to not to ponder the the alignment of the stars, which had led to this dilemma, and just ask the waitress if I might speak with the manager. When I signaled to her that I wished to speak with her, she came over blurting out, before I could get a word in edge-wise, “Hey, aren’t you guys the lucky ones! I am unable to furnish you with a bill, because it has already been paid for.”
I stared at her in shock. “Been paid for? But I haven’t paid for it. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Of course you didn’t; he did,” and she indicated a retreating figure out front of the restaurant, a man with Levis and a backwards Giants hat.